An exciting year ahead

Happy New year! Last year was an exciting year and you can’t have missed that it was a year when we celebrated 100 years of some women getting the vote. Teams of Snapping the Stiletto volunteers worked with our partner museums throughout the year to uncover stories of Essex women and their achievements over the last 100 years.

 

 

This year we are telling these stories across Essex starting with an exhibition at Epping Forest District Museum opening this Saturday (12th  January) and staying there until March 16th. See our exhibition page for details of where else the exhibition will be over the coming year.

This exhibition contains stories both researched and told by Essex women. They chose the title ‘Essex Women; Adversity, Adventure and Aspiration’. Project volunteers and the Project Team consulted local groups to steer the research and volunteers worked hard with our partners to find these stories. A team of volunteers have written much of the text, chosen images and come up with interactive ideas all designed to celebrate 100 years of change for women.

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Volunteers attending a text writing workshop

Come along and find out what it has been like for women serving in the police and Fire services, working the land during wartime and moving here to support our health services.

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Women Police Officers. Image courtesy of the Essex Police Museum

 

Discover Essex businesswomen and engineers.

Women worker at a machine

A worker at the EKCO factory in Southend. Image courtesy of Southend Museums

 

Grace Chappelow campaigning. Image courtesy of Chelmsford museum

Find out more about Essex women who campaigned for lots of different causes and let us know who is your strong Essex Women!

 

(The exhibition will be on display at Epping Forest District Museum in Waltham Abbey from Saturday 12th January until Saturday 16th March. It will then visit other venues around the county – dates and details can be found here).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wonder Women: 100 Years of Women’s Lives in Redbridge

Today we are hosting a blog from written by Alex Lyons from one of our partner museums talking about their current exhibition

Come back here soon for details of the  exhibition designed by Snapping the Stiletto volunteers which will launch at Epping Forest District Museum on January 12th- in the meantime do visit our partners at Redbridge.

Redbridge Museum invites you to visit their new exhibition ‘Wonder Women: 100 Years of Women’s Lives in Redbridge’

Redbridge Museum is one of 11 partner museums involved with Snapping the Stiletto. Today Redbridge is a London Borough but historically Ilford, Wanstead and Woodford were all part of Essex.

To celebrate 100 years since some women in the UK won the right to vote, ‘Wonder Woman’, focuses on the lives of women in Ilford, Wanstead and Woodford over the past century. The exhibition explores the campaign to get the vote, the impact of two world wars, leisure, love, working life and sisterhood, all told by local women in their own words.

Preparing for this major exhibition ran parallel to Snapping the Stiletto and much of the research has been shared with the project team at Snapping the Stiletto.

Volunteers worked both in-house, researching local women’s organisations and externally, transcribing oral history interviews. The Snapping the Stiletto volunteers helped delve into Redbridge Museum’s collection and uncover hidden women’s stories.

 

Dee Ramlal of Ilford is one such ‘Wonder Woman’. Dee was born in Trinidad & Tobago in the Caribbean and came to England in 1971, aged 21, to train as a nurse.

Dee says:

“I come from a line of strong women. My Mum started off as a teacher but had to leave her job when she got pregnant without being married. She said don’t let that happen to you. And I listened. She said, you go to England and you get yourself a career in nursing and you’re going to live a good life.

Those days it was very hard for foreign nurses, very, very difficult. We went through a lot of racism, a lot of prejudice, but we stuck it out.

For me, the best part of my career was when I became a community nurse. I felt as if I was giving one-to-one care, there was no rushing without giving of your best. You know that when you organise their care and you see the patient recover, that’s what nursing is all about. It’s not about the money. Nursing to me is life.”

To find out more about Dee’s story and other Redbridge ‘Wonder Women’ visit the exhibition at Redbridge Museum, Central Library, Ilford open until 27 April 2019 (Tuesday – Friday 10-5, Saturday 10-4)

www.redbridge.gov.uk/museum

 

Ask her to stand- One hundred years of voting

One hundred years ago today women in the UK voted for the first time in a General Election. Two-thirds of women in the UK (8.5 million) were eligible to vote at this first election. One woman – Constance Markiewicz – was elected to the House of Commons in 1918 although, as a member of Sinn Fein, she didn’t take her seat and it wasn’t until the following year that Nancy Astor became the first woman to sit in the House.

In the last election (2017) 208 women were elected as MPs – 32% of the total. Essex roughly follows this pattern with six women and 12 men serving the 18 constituencies.

 

The campaign 50:50 Parliament has been working toward more equal representation

https://5050parliament.co.uk/

50:50 Parliament’s Mission

To achieve an inclusive gender-balanced parliament, that draws upon the widest possible pools of talent, including men and women equally, incorporating their full range of diversity and experience.

50:50 Parliament drives this mission by encouraging, inspiring and supporting political engagement, particularly from women. In addition, 50:50 Parliament lobbies Parliament and the political parties to be more inclusive of women.’

Do you know someone who would be a great MP? Has a friend always said she’d love to be involved but doesn’t know where to start? 50:50 Parliament has a campaign #askhertostand looking for women who may be interested in standing and working with them to support and mentor them. If we want to be represented then some of us need to take a deep breath and think ‘I’ll give it a go!’

If you need inspiration just think of all the amazing Essex women who campaigned for us to get the vote- today we say thank you to them all!

Rosina Sky protesting ‘No Vote, No tax’ after her goods were seized.

Grace Chappelow campaigning

Construction: A conference on identity

construction landscape

Construction: A conference on identity. Fashion/Curation/Art/Photography event, 2nd November 2018, 10:30-15:45, Beecroft Art Gallery

Tickets: £25 & £10 student tickets  (includes lunch and refreshments)

Join leading creatives at the Beecroft Art Gallery to explore identity creation through fashion, art, photography and fashion curation.

Snapping the Stiletto is about sharing inspiring stories of Essex women and how they lived their lives. For many of the women we have been researching they created distinct identities for themselves in the way they acted and presented themselves in public. At the Beecroft Art Gallery we are exploring the ways people construct identities for themselves in a one-day conference on the 2nd of November.

In an image-obsessed world the concept of identity is extremely topical. We have invited leading curators, designers, photographers and historians to bring in differing perspectives on concepts around identity creation and gender identity.

Speakers include: Art Historian, Dr Mark Banting will explore Virginia Woolf’s Orlando and the re-presentation of gender roles. James Cutmore, Founder of the fashion brand The Ragged Priest will be discussing how he designs for the modern woman. Dr Tracey Loughran, from the University of Essex will be speaking about women’s representation of the self.

Other speakers include, Martin Pel, Fashion and Textiles Curator at Brighton Museum discussing his Queer Looks project around LGBTQ identities and fashion photographer Tessa Hallmann. All are focusing on the ways we ‘construct’.

There will be lots of opportunities to ask questions and the day will finish on a panel discussion with all speakers.

20181016_101416.JPGThis day is in collaboration with the subversive fashion and art exhibition Construction: An Exhibition on Clothing, Image & Persona on show now at the Beecroft Art Gallery. Curatorial Manager Ciara Phipps will be sharing her design process and inspirations behind this zeitgeist exhibition. There will be opportunities throughout the day to explore the exhibition.

 

For tickets and more information visit Eventbrite

Booking is essential. It is advised to book your tickets soon.

Follow Southend Museums on Facebook for updates.

The Beecroft Art Gallery are part of Southend Museums service which has been researching campaigning Southend women as part of Snapping the Stiletto.

International Day of the Girl

One of the aims of our project is to dispel the negative stereotype of the Essex girl and the girls and young women I’ve met through this work certainly confirm that the horrible and sexist stereotype of ‘dim’ Essex girls couldn’t be farther from the truth!

Early on I met with members of the Guides and Girls Brigade to ask for their help in steering the direction we were going in and setting our themes.

They came back with a range of ideas for us and it was clear that today’s Essex girls are interested in human rights, women scientists and engineers, women in the services, women who served in wartime, and those who worked undercover.

Planning themes for the project

The girls and young women have a strong sense of fairness and want to know WHY women couldn’t be treated as equals to men both now and in the past. The idea of women doing the same jobs as men and getting paid less amazed them and the continuing gender pay gap infuriates them. They admire women who stand up for women’s rights and want to find out more about them.

 

Photographs from the Essex Police Museum prompted an interesting discussion around the uniforms worn by the WPCs. The girls pointed out how restrictive the clothes would have been and how far they would have limited the women – ‘they couldn’t chase anyone wearing that!’ This led to a conversation about how clothes and fashions had limited girls and women and they came up with some great ideas for practical activities for people to try at our events to show how it would have felt to wear the clothes that women were expected to live and work in over the years.

Women Police Officers. Image courtesy of the Essex Police Museum

Photo courtesy of the Essex Police Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stereotyping angers these girls and although some of them like pink they want to make it clear that pink is not always a girls’ colour! They want choice and they want to challenge prejudice and stereotypes and are interested in talking to women who have fought for their rights.

These girls and young women have a strong sense of pride in the place they live and want to celebrate women who are important in their local communities.

You can hear their own voices on the GENE radio show- I was interviewed for the latest programme.

Pippa being interviewed by the GENE Radio team

These girls are proud to be Essex Girls

History Festival: Call For Content

EKCO works. c.1930s

We are excited to announce the Snapping the Stiletto: Essex Women’s History Festival. The FREE event will take place on Saturday 9th March 2019 at the University of Essex Business School, Wivenhoe.

The event, organised in partnership with the University of Essex, will bring together stories of inspirational women from around the county, as well as including a range of hands-on activities. Like the rest of the project, the festival is focussing on the hundred years since the Representation of the People Act 1918.

We would like to include as many people as possible in the event, so have launched our call for content. We are looking for:

  • 20 minute presentations about individuals or groups of Essex women
  • 8 minute “lightning” presentations
  • “Craftivism” art or craft activities
  • Introductory digital “maker” demonstrations
  • Films
  • Display stands/exhibits for relevant organisations
  • Other – if you have an exciting idea that’s not included above, we still want to hear from you

More information and an application form can be found here.

If you want to hear more about the festival, including when tickets become available, you can sign up to our mailing list.

“Singing” the Stiletto

“We’re brazen husseys and we don’t give a damn

We’re loud, we’re raucous and we’re fighting for our rights

And our sex and our need to be free”

(The Greenham Songbook)

 

Music is powerful. Patients with dementia often remember songs from their youth long after other memories have gone. The right melody can stir our emotions, moving us to tears or to the dancefloor. It is little wonder then that protest movements down the century have regularly used music as a call to action.

 

Probably the best known suffrage anthem is “March of the Women” by Ethel Smyth. She was a trained musician and a prolific composer, writing in a range of styles. Smyth was the first female composer ever to be made a Dame and, while serving two months in Holloway for breaking windows during the suffrage campaign, conducted a choir of her fellow inmates while using her toothbrush for a baton.

This performance is by Glasgow University Chapel Choir, but it is important to remember that it would have been sung by ordinary women as they protested, not just by formal choirs.

 

Ethel Smyth wasn’t the only woman writing suffrage songs, and the tradition of women writing and singing campaign songs didn’t end in 1918 with the vote. Music has been at the heart of campaigns including equal pay and nuclear disarmament. The handwritten Greenham Songbook, passed around between protesters, has been digitised and can be viewed online.

More recently, “Quiet” by Milck has been picked up by the anti-Trump women’s movement in America. This video shows her performing it with other women at the women’s march in Washington DC

 

We are really keen to incorporate music into the Snapping the Stiletto project. Do you know of any protest songs from the last 100 years which were written by an Essex woman? What were the Dagenham Ford workers singing as they campaigned for equal pay? Which lyrics filled the air at Brightlingsea as women campaigned against live exports? Are there any other “local” protest songs we should be singing? Please email pippa.smith@essex.gov.uk with your suggestions (and don’t worry, we know the lyrics may include a few swear words).